Elmer Gantry (1960) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A fast-talking traveling salesman with a charming, loquacious manner convinces a sincere evangelist that he can be an effective preacher for her cause.

  • Elmer Gantry is a fast-talking, hard-drinking traveling salesman who always has a risqué story and a hip flask to entertain cronies and customers alike. He is immediately taken with Sister Sharon Falconer, a lay preacher whose hellfire-and-damnation revivalism has attracted quite a following. Gantry uses his own quick wit and Bible knowledge to become an indispensable part of Sister Sharon's roadshow, but his past soon catches up with him in the form of Lulu Bains, now a prostitute. While Gantry seeks and eventually gets forgiveness from Sharon, tragedy strikes when she finally manages to get out of her revivalist tent and opens a permanent church.

  • In the mid-1920s, Elmer Gantry is a hard-living, smooth-talking traveling salesman who often uses Christian references in his sales pitches to his largely Christian clients. In his travels he comes across the traveling revival show of evangelist Sister Sharon Falconer. He is immediately attracted to her and also sees her revival meetings as a way to make money. Using his sales techniques, especially on one of Sister Sharon's underlings, the naïve Sister Rachel, Elmer is able infiltrate her entourage. He becomes the symbiotic antithesis to Sister Sharon: while he tells of heading toward the depths of hell for his many sins, she tells of being saved from that fate if repentance is forthcoming. Elmer's presence is against the wishes of Sister Sharon's manager, William Morgan, who sees through Elmer's smooth-talking veneer, although he can't argue with the bottom line that Elmer brings to the meetings. Traveling with the show is Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Jim Lefferts, who looks at the show and Elmer with a critical eye, although Sister Sharon, William, and Elmer welcome him. William's business plan has been for the show to set up in small towns, so it's against his wishes that Sister Sharon, falling for Elmer, agrees to Elmer's plan to set up in the larger city of Zenith, where William feels the that the scrutiny of the cynical urban populace will hurt their brand. But it's Elmer's past, which catches up with him in Zenith, that may be his, and by association Sister Sharon's, downfall.

  • When hedonistic but charming con man Elmer Gantry meets the beautiful Sister Sharon Falconer, a roadside revivalist, he feigns piousness to join her act as a passionate preacher. The two make a successful onstage pair, and their chemistry extends to romance. But both the show and their relationship are threatened when one of Gantry's ex-lovers decides that she must settle a score with the charismatic performer.

  • Salesman Elmer Gantry, salesman teams up with evangelist Sister Sharon Falconer to sell religion to 1920s America. They make enough money to build a temple, and Sister Sharon falls for Elmer. He is tested by temptation and almost capitulates, but is then wrongly accused by the jilted temptress. But Sharon stands by Elmer and truth prevails, until both are seduced by fame and blind faith over common sense, and fate deals them a crushing blow.


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